Continued from Part 4: The Rabbit Range Expansive is a good word to describe the Ha-Iltzuk Icefield. These glaciers are the largest glaciers south of Alaska.
The toe of the glacier runs down almost to sea level. Something uncommon these days so far south. It's a rare and beautiful landscape which we may continue to rapidly change and might disappear altogether. It's for this reason that it was an amazing privilege to be able to move across this untouched and remote landscape on foot.
The Klinaklini Glaciers are long arms of flowing ice stacked against each other divided by long and peaked, glaciated ridges. These branches continue to connect and merge together towards a single terminus. The Silverthrone glaciers which are a few more large, stacked arms of flowing ice also follow a merging course with the Klinaklini Glacier. All together this forms the Ha-Iltzuk Icefield, totalling an humongous 3600 sq. kilometers of glaciers.
All this has has to exist for a reason. Sitting at around 1800m-2400m the icefield isn't especially high but it's proximity to the ocean allows it to exist at these latitudes. Tremendous amounts of frozen precipitation fall on this area all year round and a lot of cloud cover shades it from the hot summer suns. This meant a lot of potential for whiteouts and weather. After reading about John Clarks 11 consecutive days stuck in a storm on a solo mission into this range, we made use of our great weather to make progress along our route and get ahead of schedule.
The sun beat down on us as we crossed the heads of the Klinaklini glaciers. The nights cooled a little and the snow's surface froze allowing for fast morning travel. These bits were quite enjoyable and made quick work of a lot of kilometers!
At some point we dropped our loads and headed out for more peak bagging. Pelletier Peak was first on the list along with a few other unnamed peaks nearby. The views from these peaks was astounding. Dramatic drop offs, wild distant valleys on the one side, extensive glaciers on the other. Later after setting up camp we climbed and skied Mt Dolter. The weather continued to be fantastic and sunsets filled our eyes with coloured glaciers and mountains in the evenings.
Through the satellite phone we had arranged a meeting with Nic Gobin. Nic Gobin would be flying in with Whitesaddle Air's Longranger helicopter and joining us for the second half, bringing us our food for the second half of the trip. Michal and Florian would also fly out. We expected Nic in the morning and waited. At this point, I was suffering from either the effects of heat exhaustion or a stomach bug. Energy ran very low and I would struggle for the next week, climbing only half as many peaks as the others. A food drop would be the perfect thing to lift our spirits and make me feel a bit better. Over the course of the past few weeks we came to crave food and tonight we would have a feast waiting for us!
Soon a text came through and we found out avalanche road closures and forest fires occupying the helicopter delayed him so we got a move on. We aimed to move to a col beneath the NE ridge of Mount Silverthone and Triplex Peak but a a ridge of rotten rock barred our route. After seeing Florian try to down-climb through the rotten rock, he came back up and we navigated our way around.
From this col we waited for Gobin and the helicopter. And we waited... And waited. As the end of daylight was drawing near we started thinking the chopper wouldn't arrive until tomorrow. We ate a dinner of scavenged food, placed our bets and were ready to give up on the notion when we heard the thwack-thwack of the helicopter in the distance.
Yes! Here he is. As the helicopter, swooped high over us and made a turn it came to land on a flat spot we prepared. Action! Boxes came flying out, Michal and Florian said quick goodbyes and good lucks before jumping in and without shutting down, the helicopter was off again.
So much food! We definitely feasted! Artem prepared steaks with butter and onions and Nic prepared a hefty spaghetti and meatball dinner. Tim and Matwyuk also flew in orange jus and apples which felt like delicacy.
From many friends and family came care packages. A delicious pie from Nic's girlfriend, sweet and small squares of Sucre-a-la Creme from my mother and a few letters.
Throughout the trip we had one particular follower/fan. Lena Rowat. Her name stands alone as one of the first to have completed the entire Coast Mountain Traverse. Lena followed our spot track and sent us constant texts via our satellite phone. The texts would frustratingly come when weather texts were for some reason delayed in cyberspace. Even so her messages lifted our spirits and made us feel like people were watching over us. With Lena came a large care package full of delicious cookies and for our entertainment a Michal Jackson wig to "shelter us from the sun and provide simultaneous entertainment". We definitely found ways to entertain ourselves that evening with a fire, tobogganing and shenanigans.
Although we were sad to see our partners go, we were happy to see Nic Gobin. With renewed spirits and full stomachs, summits and the final leg of our trip awaited us.